Driving and Engaging Private Club Membership with Technology


May 11, 2022

Time is a resource that is always in short supply and becoming even more precious. It’s especially important from the perspective of every club.

Members are choosing to spend time there. They expect it to be fun and appropriately personalized, but not tedious and slow. At the same time, clubs need to understand how individual members are using and interacting with staff and using the club without being intrusive or overbearing. Happy Hollow has discovered how to balance those forces through technology. We caught up with Gil Russell, Assistant to the General Manager to see how they make it work for their membership.

Q: How would you describe your membership?

Gil Russell: We are a true family club here in Omaha and very traditional. Members are truly here just to create memories. We are into everything because are members are, and we are very blessed – membership is full.  We have caps in every category and it’s now time for us to focus on everything that creates that great experience for the member. They’re going to find a great place to have dinner, to play golf, play tennis, and swim. You can come to our club and you can do everything here. That added value of what they pay for their membership really solidifies our place in their lives.

Q: How has your membership changed over time, specifically the last few years?

Gil Russell: We are developing a better mix in the demographics of our membership. Building a new activity center, was huge for our growth and to fill the membership. That created this influx of families, but also, a community for those members that are looking for social activities. “Hey, I play golf, but I want to join a gym.” It created that opportunity to reach that target market of younger families.

Our average age for membership certainly has come down, but that’s not a demographic that we were concerned about. The greatest compliment we continue to get is through our legacy memberships. If your parents have been at the club for 10 years or longer, you are automatically in as a member. And that’s been used a lot as we’ve had a full cap and waitlist. They’re jumping that waitlist.  That tells you that as their parents are currently members, their kids are now joining with kids and going through that same cycle. That’s the greatest compliment we could ever receive. They grew up here. They’ve gone away, they’ve come back to Omaha, and they want to raise their kids here with us at Happy Hollow.

Q: How have the members adapted to the new Clubessential systems?

Gil Russell: People say, we don’t like change, but change is the only constant. I think it really has changed how they use the club and find the information. For example, the old, print version of our Happy Hollow Times newsletter has really changed to an email form. We still have a few that love to read that booklet and that’s never going to change. For the core active members, however, they have noticed it more. They have been able to assist us with the changes. Whether it’s events, RSVP’ing earlier, or having that information at their fingertips, our calendars and events fill up quickly.

Also, the way we have handled fitness and tennis reservations have really cut down on calls. ‘Hey, I want to play pickleball are the courts open?’ They no longer have to call and wait for someone to give them an answer. They literally open their phone and they’re saying, yep, it’s open. Let’s go. Same way for the golf simulators. I think that is a benefit to our members because their lives are just as busy as ours. They value their time and we’re not wasting their time, having to make that phone call, find that person and ask those questions. It’s right there for them.

Q:  What’s ahead for Happy Hollow?

Gil Russell: We are full, we’ve got 36 people on the golf waitlist and 20, 25 on the social waitlist. We’ve got a waitlist started for our clubhouse membership. Our focus is now on our core membership and their experience. It’s the details of the events. It’s creating new events. It’s showing value to those members that are paying us dues monthly. I think Clubessential is going to help us really identify those lapsed individuals with the MAP score. It’s going to identify those members that are fully engaged and using every aspect of the club. It allows us to identify those members that haven’t been to the club in a month or two. That’s going to shed some light for us to really make sure we’re engaging with those members and we’re not losing somebody in the fray as we operate.

Seeing the Future

With waitlists and legacies lining up to get into the club, it would be easy for Happy Hollow to rest on their current successes. But that wouldn’t last. The fact that their taking active steps now to better serve their already happy members, and searching for ways to re-engage any members that might lapse is a testament to their commitment to the future.

Learn more about the Clubessential Membership Analytics Predictor (MAP) and mobile reservations here: